Wizard 101 continues to rise in popularity at the pace of a lightening bolt. Crackling with good clean fun for the family, this game is one of the few MMOs that truly appeals to hardcore players as well as kids taking their first steps into the game space. We sat down with the Wizard 101 team and talked about upcoming additions to the game, why they are more popular than Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, and why they made the choice to do a kids’ MMO.
Todd Coleman is the Executive Producer of Wizard 101 and we began with the choices made behind the game. Todd explained they wanted to do something different than the typical hardcore MMO despite much of the team having a background in Shadowbane. The group spent a summer researching MMOs, card games, spells, and wizards. The result of this research became Wizard 101. Wizard 101 is all about the fantasy of being a wizard and growing your powers, PvPing, and adventuring with your fellow spell casters. Even though the game is geared towards kids, Todd explained they have a large adult audience and that many hardcore MMO players enjoy Wizard 101 because it has a lot of depth for players.
We talked about some of the additions coming to the game and Todd quickly focused on the new mount system being added. Many MMOs have mounts in one form or another, and Wizard 101 wants to give players faster ways to get around the game. The game will be getting mounts soon and players will be able to gallop around to their next adventure.
We moved on toward what makes Wizard 101’s combat so much fun. The combat is turn based which Todd explained was a huge risk for an MMO. It also uses a card dueling system, so spells are actually cards in your deck. The graphics in combat is an area where Wizard 101 truly shines. You do not just sit there and draw cards; once you draw a card a powerful spell is unleashed into the dueling circle. The effects are masterful and bring true color to the game. Nothing beats summoning a top hat wearing ghoul to attack your opponent and steal his power. Despite the risk of turn based combat, Wizard 101’s system paid off tremendously. The combat is cool and Todd explains they are always coming up with new spells and effects for players.
The game universe of Wizard 101 knows no bounds which is the way Todd Coleman and team designed the world. It has a general fantasy setting but lots of elements are thrown into what a Wizard’s world might be like. There are talking animals, mythical beats, undead, ninja pigs, and skeleton pirates. Magic being the main theme gave the team an open canvas to create a world with infinite possibility. The game keeps its core magic schools as player choices but opens up for quests and colorful NPCs. Todd said he wanted a, worlds within worlds, approach similar to the movie Time Bandits.
The concepts and open minded approach to Wizard 101 has paid off. The game currently has reached five million registered users. Wizard 101 game cards are the number one selling single game card in Best Buy right now. The game reached another milestone by becoming the top search on Google for the word Wizard beating out the likes of Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place show. The team could not be happy about the appeal the game has to kids. However, they are quick to stress that a lot of heavy MMO players also enjoy the game. It has all the pieces for a hardcore MMO with fun combat and interesting player advancement. Wizard 101 keeps a very protective interface for kids so that chat and online socialization is carefully monitored for safety.
With lots of kid themed MMOs trying to enter the market lately it is easy to write them off as being for kids. Wizard 101 does a fantastic job appealing to both adult players and young players. While their core players base is the eight to twelve year old market. Todd said his favorite story is that of a grandmother who plays with her grand kids that never played a video game, let alone an MMO in her life. She claims not to be a gamer, but has three level fifty grand master wizards that she actively plays.
While a lot of attention has been paid to other kids’ games, Wizard 101 truly is a stand out in the space. It also has the depth that any gamer needs to really get hooked into the world. The game is respected throughout the industry by many studios and players alike. It was great to meet with Todd and the team from Kings Isle to get a look behind some of the choices they have made. Other companies may show off their kids’ games, but Wizard 101 is an example that all MMO companies should look too as a fun world to play in.